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Lord Waddington: My Lords, I rise to seek guidance from the Government Front Bench because I can see a real problem here. Am I not correct in thinking that the eldest sons of Peers have the right to attend the State Opening of Parliament? Am I not right in thinking that the eldest sons of Peers have the right to sit on the steps of the Throne? Am I not also correct in thinking that they are able to do so not because of any resolution of this House but because of custom? If that is the position, they cannot be deprived of what they have now as the result of a meeting within the House of some committee and a determination by that committee. It seems to me that unless this matter is addressed we shall be faced with a confusing situation--it is for others to judge whether it is just or unjust--where the sons of Peers can sit on the steps of the Throne, but Peers cannot. As I say, there is a problem here which needs to be addressed. I agree with the speech made by my noble friend Lady Young. I really think that we ought to recognise the service given by hereditary Peers over the years. We are not asking for anything very great here.
But quite apart from that, I should like some advice as to where we are going here because I think that we shall end up with some extraordinary situations if we just sit back and say, "We do not have to do anything for the time being".
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, there is an even jollier irony. All those Irish Peers who are no longer representatives can sit on the steps of the Throne and can use the facilities of the House but we old, ex-UK Peers, or GB Peers, or Scottish Peers, or whatever we are, will not be able to do so. However, the Irish Peers from the Republic of Ireland with wonderful names such as Malahide, McGillicuddy of the Reeks, or Clonmel, will be able to clutter up the steps of the Throne.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I think that one part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has been overlooked. Those of us who have sat in the House of Commons have access to the buildings of Parliament as a right. I am perfectly entitled to go into the Members' Lobby and Central Lobby any time I like. Is the House to say that police are to be posted at the point of access from Central Lobby to this House to make sure that no ex-MP who is wandering about can get in here? It would mean posting policemen and all kinds of officials around, with or without guns in their pockets. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, in his initial plea for good manners and mercy missed a technical point. This issue will cause difficulties. If we are to be kept out of here, despite former membership of the House of Commons, which gives us access to the dining rooms downstairs and the Central Lobby and so on, that will be a complicated situation to administer.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the tone of the debate suggests that we are asking the hereditary Peers to leave rather a pleasant club. This is not a club; it is a place of work. Ancillary facilities are provided because we have to attend this place of work at lunch time, in the evening and at times when we should be able to eat on the premises, and so that we have a place to entertain guests. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that we should be a little kind and gentle in this regard but it seems to me that there are other ways of doing that rather than treating the facilities of the House as if they were the facilities of a club.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, much of what I was going to say has already been said much better by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others. However, I want to make three points. First, I very much welcomed the splendidly civilised speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I differ from him only in suggesting that the relevant word is not "mercy" but "civilisation". I point out incidentally that the Explanatory Notes to the Bill expressly state that
Finally, it will be much, much easier for the servants of the House--the Attendants and all the others who have served us and worked for us these many years--if they do not have to say one fine day, "I am sorry, my Lord, you cannot do that". The matter needs to be sorted out. We need some express privileges decided and offered--and we should offer them without any question of mercy but as recognition of a good job well done.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I understand the very strong feelings of my noble friend and others who have spoken during the course of this short debate. In Committee, I was struck by the strength of feeling on the other side of the argument. It is true that the House is not a club; I deprecate the phrase "club rights". The phrase suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, of "ancillary benefits" is much better.
As my noble friend Lord Lauderdale said, the other place extends privileges to former Members; we, in turn, extend privileges to retired Bishops. The service of some noble Lords to this Parliament is enormous. For example, my noble friend Lord Ferrers is a Privy Counsellor; he was for many years a Minister; he is a former Deputy Leader of this House; he entered this House in 1954. There are others even more senior. I wonder if the Leader of the House will give orders to the Doorkeepers to bar my noble friend from the premises in November. Will he be sent to queue at St. Stephen's entrance? Will he have to wait his turn while the Pass Office conducts security checks? That is an unthinkable scenario. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, agrees; he is right so to do. Is it the Government's view that no privileges should be extended to former Members, except retired Bishops?
It is no good the Government saying that this is a matter for the new House. They will be the Government in the new House of Lords and they will have to make their view known in that new House. I will come clean with my view. I believe that certain privileges should be accorded to former Members. Does the Minister agree? Or does he not want to see former Members hanging
This is not a matter to be determined on the face of the Bill; these decisions should not be placed in the hands of another place. However, that the matter should be addressed--and addressed promptly--I have no doubt. I have suggested a way in which this could be done and carried forward. I very much hope that the Government will support that suggestion. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, said, this issue is causing unnecessary ill-feeling. The churlishness behind being ready to look at the matter now is demeaning to the House.
We took a decision on the rights of retired Bishops when the right reverend Prelates were present in the House. We should not use the presence of hereditary Peers as a bogus pretext for deferring a view on the oldest element in our House. I very much look forward to a response from the Government.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, we have had this debate on a large number of occasions during the course of the passage of the Bill through the House. Indeed, we have discussed the matter once already on Report during the debate on an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. We are now debating it for a second time at Report stage. It would be wrong in those circumstances to go through the details in the debate today. I should say that if those who took such pleasure from the eldest son sitting on the steps of the Throne had been listening the last time we had this debate, when the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, moved his amendment, they would have heard that the only eldest sons, according to custom, who can sit on the steps of the Throne are those eldest sons of Peers who sit in this House. That completely dealt with the conundrum that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, found so jolly.
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